Courtesy of the Matson Collection, The Episcopal Home

Snakelike, the Jordan River flows southward from the top of this aerial photo taken by renowned Holy Land photographer G. Eric Matson (1888–1977). Viewed from just above the Allenby Bridge, near Jericho, the Jordan’s dark-hued “thickets,” or scrub vegetation, line its course through the eroded, barren badlands. The dense thickets grow in the river’s floodplain, which rarely exceeds a mile in width. The adjoining badlands—carved into a maze of gullies, ridges and mesas too arid and saline for vegetation—stand 50 to 150 feet above the river. The Jordan’s meandering route turns a 90-mile crow’s flight into a 200-mile drunkard’s walk, but, like the switchbacks of a mountain path, the meanders reduce the gradient by half.